One of the questions I often get asked from club level golfers is how can they improve their games and what components of their golf should they be practicing.
Let’s start with exactly what practice is for. We practice to train, acquire, or polish a new skill. In golf this might mean to be able to play a new shot (higher, lower etc.), or to reduce the amount of movement our golf ball makes in the air (slice, hook), we might even need to alter our swing due to an injury or to help us play with less pain.
If your chipping is inconsistent, the fix could be as simple as standing closer to the ball. This will encourage you to swing the club more straight-back, straight-through instead of on a rounded arc. A mental image that works great is to think about swinging the clubhead as if it were a Ferris wheel, straight up and down.
When you stand too far from the ball, the club starts at a flatter angle, which causes it to move quickly to the inside. An inside swing arc can be desirable on full swings, but there’s no need for it on a simple chip. With such a short swing, attacking the ball from the inside makes it difficult to hit with a descending blow, so it promotes that bad instinct of scooping the ball. How close should you stand? The first time, get close enough so it feels a little uncomfortable, like you’re crowding the ball. Then you know you’re doing it about right.
Are You Guilty of Practicing Only Swing Technique?
Solution: Use other types of training: competitive, routine, shot shaping, and mental skills.
There is nothing better than the feel of a well-struck shot or the sight of a drive soaring through the air. Striking the ball correctly is one of the most impressive aspects of the game, especially when you are the one doing the striking. Perhaps this is the reason for such a preoccupation with the golf swing with both players and coaches.
A constant focus on swing technique, no matter how justified it may seem will be detrimental to the overall development of your game and the ability to transfer your practice to the course.
In order to create a more seamless transfer, other types of practice must be utilised. When you go to the course, the focus is on scoring rather than swing positions (at least it should be). Other types of practice include competitive drills; performance in these has a direct correlation to performance on the course. Ideally you should do some competitive practice a few times a week and record the results so you can monitor your progress.
Routines should be considered to be part of the shot. As such they should be practiced at every session. When you practice routines, include shot visualisation, planning, focussing and creating your playing state. Development of your routines is a skill and should be treated the same as the development of any other skill.
Routines include pre-shot (assessment of lie, target, wind direction and strength), shot (walk-in, looks and waggles, etc) and post-shot (no emotional attachment to a poor shot and full emotional attachment to a great shot). Shot shaping is useful not only for developing a skill that you can use on the course, but there is an added benefit: noting the shapes that are easy or difficult to play can point to areas that need to be addressed with your swing. If one shot is difficult to hit (for example a draw), then practicing hitting the draw will positively influence your entire swing.
Mental skills including visualisation, self-talk, goal setting, state management, concentration, etc can all be practiced during any training session. There is no need to develop them in isolation, as they can all be incorporated into any practice (except perhaps for relaxation). In fact they are either developed as good habits or bad habits during your practice as you respond to good and poor shots you hit while practicing.
My Challenge to You – develop your own practice plan for a 2-hour session incorporating every type of practice.
Before you pick up a bucket of balls, choose a spot on the driving range and take out a club, think about why you are out here in the first place. The obvious answer is to practice. But by practicing what do you hope to accomplish? Yes you want to play “better.” But unfortunately for most recreational golfers, a trip to the driving range rarely results in effective practice and game improvement. For most recreational golfers hitting balls on the driving range may be little more than exercise.
For many, it becomes an opportunity to further reinforce and practice a misguided swing or an ineffective strategy.
This doesn’t have to be the case, even for recreational golfers. If you are willing to examine your mindset on the range, practice with a purpose and, finally, be sufficiently disciplined to stick to a practice plan you can begin to build an important foundation to begin to play well. Below Continue Reading→
There are no shortcuts to getting better. You’re going to have to put in some work. That’s the bad news. The good news is: If you follow my advice, the things you have to do to improve–and make that improvement last–can be fairly simple. I’m a big believer in working on one thing at a time. So to help you get started, I’ve broken down the swing into five segments. Within each segment I’ll give you a single element to focus on. If you work on any one of them, you should begin to see positive changes in your swing. Continue Reading→
The players who get it done in the wind are the ones who don’t try to fight it. They don’t swing harder or moan about bad luck. They focus on hitting the ball solidly, because a solid shot will fly true in a pretty stiff breeze, but a weak shot is hopeless.
Let’s focus on playing into the wind, because that’s the shot that gets most golfers. Obviously, you want to keep the ball low to neutralize the conditions. Best advice? Take a couple extra clubs, and swing at 75 percent. Fast swings create more backspin and send the ball higher, so resist the urge to smash it.
Play the ball an inch farther back than normal in your stance, and squat a little at address for stability. Then make a three-quarter swing, and try to stay more “on top of” the ball. Feel like your nose is ahead of the ball at impact, and your right hip and shoulder stay high through the strike. You’re hitting down on it, trapping it against the turf.
Last point: Wind in your face will exaggerate any curve. If you play a draw or fade, give the ball more room to turn. But don’t forget my big key: Take more club, and go easier.
A good swing starts with a good grip. A bad swing starts with a bad grip. Because most amateurs fail to put their hands on the club properly, they’ll never be able to play as well as they should.
I use the Vardon overlapping grip. I feel it unifies the hands and promotes better wrist hinging. My left hand goes on first, and I turn it to see two knuckles. My left thumb rests just right of center on the shaft.
I like those molded practice grips for learning how to hold the club. The grooves will put your hands in the correct positions. Even though it makes the clubhead feel too light, I suggest you get one and hit balls with it to improve your grip.
The mistake I see most is a grip that’s too weak. People put their thumbs straight down the shaft, and the result is usually an open clubface at impact–and a shot that peels off to the right.
A grip that’s too strong, where you see too many knuckles, will likely cause the clubface to be closed at impact. It’s a power grip, especially if you’re a slicer. Still, I’d rather see your grip too strong than too weak.
Low back pain is the most common injury seen in golfers of all ages and skill levels, from beginners to touring professionals. Low back pain in golfers is
usually due to overuse, or repetitive strain, rather than due to a single incident, and often has many factors that contribute to its development. Poor posture at address, and throughout the swing, places extra stress through the discs, joints, ligaments and muscles of the lower back. Poor postural habits at work, when sitting in the car or at the computer, and while watching TV, all impact on your posture on the golf course. This poor posture places your spine in a vulnerable position and greatly increases the risk of injury.
Restrictions in other parts of the body often result in injury to the lower back. The golf swing requires rotation, and most of this rotation occurs in your upper back and hips. Tightness in these regions is very common and causes increased rotary stress on the lower back, resulting in injury. Several swing faults have also been identified as causes of low back pain in golfers. Often these swing faults are due to physical restrictions that cause you to swing in a certain way, which can result in injury to the lower back.
For a thorough assessment of your low back pain, including a comprehensive assessment of the relationship between your golf swing and your body, consult a Golf Specific Physiotherapist.
Builders take great time and care to ensure a building’s foundations are stable and correct, otherwise the building can’t be developed correctly. So it is with a golf swing. You can identify a good golfer by the way they stand to the ball, likewise a golfer with poor posture is identified as one who limits their potential.